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James Harden on $15 million pay cut: ‘I want to win a championship’

Andrew Buller-Russ

While James Harden hasn’t officially put his name on the dotted line to sign his new contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, the word is he’s taking a $15 million discount. Obviously this was unexpected, as we rarely see stars not signing for the largest amount available to them.

For the 76ers, having an additional $15 million to spend in free agency as they continue to shape their roster proved invaluable. While we won’t know the true results of their decisions until the playoffs arrive, being able to add P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House plus trading for De’Athony Melton will help the team’s depth, which was a priority heading into the offseason.

But those were problems for team president Daryl Morey to figure out, not exactly an issue players are typically concerned with, even if their ultimate goal is to win. So why did Harden sacrifice some of his own salary to help Morey’s job easier?

James Harden is sick of losing

NBA: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As you can imagine, Harden has his own motivations for why he was willing to offer the 76ers a discount when negotiating his next contract. He recently sat down with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes to share his reasoning.

“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

James Harden on why he took less with 76ers

The “This is how bad I want to win” feels a bit over the top for me. We already understood that from the other parts of what Harden said. Generally that’s the only reason why someone would be willing to sign for a lesser amount, to help his team win.

But credit to Harden, as he can say whatever he wants. The point is, he did leave money on the table with the sole goal of helping his team win a championship. Say whatever you want about Harden and his late-season performance with the 76ers, but this is a team player, and his contract proves it.

He’s still one of the best scorers in the game, and I expect to see that version return to the court in 2022 once he has more time to get acclimated with his teammates.

Harden also doesn’t care what you, I, or anyone else has to say about his time with the Sixers so far, he’s just focused on preparing for the next season.

“I don’t really listen to what people are saying. I wasn’t right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double.If anybody else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I’m just looking forward to next season.”

  • James Harden stats with 76ers: 21 PPG, 10.5 APG, 7.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG

Harden appears to be in the right frame of mind as he gets ready for his first full season playing next to Joel Embiid, which should have the dynamic duo set up for a successful year. After reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals, losing in six games to the Miami Heat, the Sixers are aiming much higher next year, and the savings leftover from Harden’s contract negotiations have them in a position to do just that. We’ll see how it translates to the court.

Related: NBA executive says Brooklyn Nets deserve ‘James Harden type of package’ in a Kevin Durant trade